I added a blogroll to Reading in Bed. I thought this would be a quick tweak, but apparently WordPress removed the blogroll “widget” nearly a decade ago. Despite that, I see blogrolls in the sidebar of book blogs fairly often. They aren’t dead. But they have waned, likely for the same reason that blogs themselves have – the ascension of big social media platforms. Who needs a quickly-outdated list of recommended blogs when Twitter can take a pretty good guess at what else I want to see, and suggest a passel of related accounts every time I hit the follow button?
The fact that they do still exist, and that the ones I quickly surveyed appear to be up to date, suggests that there must be something relevant about a blogroll, something that social media, or newer WordPress widgets like “recently liked”, can’t quite replace. As I filled in my blogroll, I went down a blogroll rabbit hole, as it were…
Who coined the blogroll
One of the only “official” looking sources of info about who may have coined “blogroll” comes from a 2004 book called “Who Let the Blogs Out” by Biz Stone, who names Jason DeFillippo, and points to a website that no longer has anything to do with blogrolls. Stone and DeFillippo have both since shuttered their blogs and moved on to newer media (Stone co-founded Twitter, DeFillippo produces podcasts).
There’s a bit of a historical record around the time that WordPress removed its built-in blogroll feature, notably this post from (also defunct) Lorelle on WordPress that gets into the controversy and ends up recommending, perhaps reasonably, that if you want to recommend another blog, you just write a post about it.
Why blogroll now, in the year of our Lord 2022
Posting about your favs is a valid suggestion, but posts and pages get buried. Unless you are very dedicated to posting links to other blogs (e.g. Pickle Me This “Gleanings“), blogrolls still seem to best serve bloggers (build community, signal where you fit in the “blogosphere”) and visitors (find more blogs to follow with ease) alike.
I decided to add a blogroll for an even more self-serving reason: I wanted an easy way to check in on my favourite blogs. I use the WordPress reader, and have email notifications turned on for some blogs, but I only really sit down to read and comment every week or two. I get quickly overwhelmed by how many posts I’ve missed. There are only so many tabs I can open! I want a limited list of homepage links, so I can take a quick look at new posts from the past few weeks. I also prefer to actually “visit” blogs, rather than view them in the reader or in an email, which strips away all the formatting and menus.
Blogrolls: you can too
If you want to add your own, you have to add a “menu,” title it “blogroll,” and use a widget to place it on your homepage, a process much better explained by wpbeginner. It’s easy enough, just a little clunky, as you must type in each blog’s title (and double-check format and capitalization), manually toggle it to open in a new window, and manually alphabetize the list at the end.
So far, I have 26 blogs listed. These are the blogs I want to have handy for weekend perusing, the ones I comment on most, most of which I’ve followed for many years. I started using it to catch up on blogs today, and I love it.
If you need some blogroll inspiration, check out Ye Olde Blogroll, a sort of blogroll without the blog, with around 200 links across many categories, including books. It’s delightfully old school but well maintained.
And if you’re looking for some new book blogs to follow, look to your lower right (or scroll waaaaay down if you’re on mobile). Assuming you aren’t reading this in WP Reader or an email digest or something. Work with me!